Don’t Burst Your Bubble Color

Recent news about division stemming from Apple’s iMessage app caught my attention this week. There’s a general notion that Apple discriminates against Google, or that iPhone discriminates against Android; I’ve got some thoughts on that. This is about the long-standing difference between iMessage texts, which are blue, and standard SMS/MMS texts, which are green. 

Here’s one of a few articles (this one’s from The Verge) written lately on the subject:

Google says Apple ‘should not benefit from bullying’ created by iMessage lock-in

“Blue bubble envy is real”

James Vincent – The Verge

I talked about this topic before, here and here. Now I’ve got more to say.

While it would be nice if everyone used the same standard or system of communication, such an ideal, for various reasons, simply doesn’t exist. In practical daily living, there’s really just one downside to the blue versus green texting dichotomy that affects me: group texts.

In a group chat, there is typically one chat or group of people texting unless one of the texts is SMS rather than iMessage. In that case, it causes multiple separated chats to appear in a list despite them belonging to the same group text. In effect, it ungroups the group chat. Not cool. At best, this is a minor inconvenience, and at worst, it can cause mild confusion. Such confusion hinders communication in a medium where context is typically lacking and thus limited in the first place.

That said, the blue/green texting dichotomy isn’t that big of a deal. While it creates a difference, it doesn’t necessarily cause division.

Of course, it’s generally good to remove or reduce barriers to communication. But it’s also good to remember that reality isn’t always optimized to match what’s ideal. So it’s normal for people to adapt to things — make them work — when those things don’t necessarily adapt to people. And when feasible, people strive to make reality as ideal as possible. In this case, it’d be cool if somehow Apple and Google or others managed to unify on a texting standard.

There’s another related problem, though, that is unlikely to be solved even if Apple and Google miraculously settle on an agreed texting paradigm.

While friends and family text my phone number to stay in touch, they’re not consistent. Sometimes they message me through another service like Facebook Messenger instead — that doesn’t get a bubble in iMessage at all. Besides text messaging, people chat through Signal, WhatsApp, and others. Everyone uses different platforms and services to communicate — at least we speak the same language. These separate ways to chat are not ideal, but we deal with it, and we don’t have to divide over it. That said, if such chatting can be simplified or unified, I think life might be a little more convenient.

I’ve been on both sides of the fence more than once when it comes to texting. I can’t ask everyone on Android to switch to iPhone any more than I could ask everyone on iPhone to switch to Android. If Apple does not adopt RCS into iMessage or doesn’t open iMessage up to Android, I think blue and green bubbles are here to stay. Would it help if Apple made them all the same color, say purple? I doubt it.

With different texting standards, texting just isn’t standardized. This is inconvenient, but it needs not be divisive — don’t let it burst your bubble no matter the color. Like agreeing to disagree, we can at least agree that differentiation (tech diversity) and competition are good things overall, though that isn’t the best consolation for broken group chats.

The Edgebook is Dead

A few months back, I got a excited for a new take on an old thing. I was interested in an iteration of Windows 10. It’s name was Windows 10X. And it will never see the light of day. Bummer, because I was really interested in a Windows version of a Chromebook. I called it the Edgebook. It could have been a simple laptop without the ad-driven privacy-invading Google tentacles weaved throughout. But the potential of Windows 10X is not all lost.

I’ve been using a Chromebook for about 2 years solid now — there’s a lot to like. Its limitations are actually a feature because they make it simple. A virtue that is still oft undervalued, simplicity is a strength that makes using a Chromebook an easy affair. There is, of course, a downside to Google’s ChromeOS. It’s the same downside inherent in all of Google’s products and services: ad-based surveillance. Your personal details profit the big Google. I have been willing to make the trade-off before: sell my digital soul for “free” web software. What could it really hurt? I reasoned that if I was forced to see ads on the web, they might as well be hyper-targeted ads for things I would actually want to spend money on.

But no more.

Like the clock’s steady pendulum, I’ve swung back to the side where privacy is of paramount importance. Going from Google to Apple, I prefer to spend my money on keeping my personal data on the private side of the fence. Why be a persona non data — that is a person online who receives no respect of their personal data, not immune to digital intrusion or invasion? Although Microsoft isn’t as privacy focused as Apple, they are certainly not as privacy ignoring as Google.

So imagine a laptop that is both simple like a Chromebook and doesn’t log your every digital move? That is what I had hoped a Microsoft Edgebook would be. But now it won’t be anything at all. Apparently, beta-testers didn’t see a reason for Windows 10X to exist, or Microsoft perceived that the OS variant simply wasn’t worth releasing to the public. I guess that’s not too much of a bummer because news reports say that some of the hallmarks of Windows 10X will be migrated into full-fledged Windows 10. I’m not exactly sure what this will entail, but I do think it’s smart for Microsoft to take what they’ve learned from development on Windows 10X and apply it to their main OS. The biggest paradigm that may be adopted is the overall push towards simplicity and modernity. I welcome that.

Despite the better looking future for Windows 10 along with its classic robust flexibility and capability as an operating system, I’ve already decided to switch from my Chromebook to either an iPad or a Mac, because Apple and iPhone. As of now, I’m lasered on the iPad as the most simple and modern computer on the market. Oh, and did I mentioned it’s also the most private? Yeah, take my money, Apple.

The EdgeBook Is Born!

Microsoft is doing a thing. It looks interesting and exciting to this tech nerd. A new OS is coming along soon, called Windows 10X (poor name IMO), but more important are the new devices along with it. Basically, we’re talking about Windows powered Chromebooks, which I’m calling EdgeBooks.

I’ve used four different Chromebooks over the last few years and really like them a lot; they’re so simple! And they’re super affordable. Did I mention reliable? They run ChromeOS and all the Google stuff like Drive and Docs. Also, the Chrome broswer, in case it wasn’t obvious.

What excites me is that Microsoft is making their own version of Chromebooks using a new and modern version of Windows. Why the excitement? Because…it’s Windows-ish! And it’s Chromebook-ish at the same time. Somehow it looks attractive, like a good fit. It helps that I actually like Windows 10.

What stands out about Windows 10X is that it’s based on Windows 10. But 10X is modernized, fresh, and above all, it’s super simplified. The legacy stuff from years past – cleaned out. Also, it runs the Microsoft Store, which has simple modern versions of Microsoft Office.

The main feature is, of course, the browser. Instead of Chrome, you get Edge. I use Windows 10 with Edge on my work laptop. It’s really good.

With that in mind, what might these new Windows 10X devices be called? How will they be marketed? Here are a few ideas:

  • WinBook – because it’s a Windows laptop.
  • EdgeBook – because it’s a Windows laptop mostly to run the Edge browser.
  • CloudBook – because it’s a CloudOS laptop, or a CloudPC.
  • SurfBook – because of “Surface” laptops. So why not also SurfOS?

There are two bits I find very interesting about Win10X:

  1. No resizing windows (unlike Chrome OS)
  2. No local file storage (unlike Chrome OS)

First, I love the simplicity of always full-screen app windows; they’re like tablet apps. This removes one of the three icons in the upper right corner of regular Windows 10 app windows.

And this might mean that many or most EdgeBooks will be quite small. They’d have to be just big enough to squeeze in a full-size keyboard. Like many Chromebooks, I think EdgeBooks will have 11.6 inch screens. That’s great for Mobile Computing.

Second, a lack of local file storage sounds like the antithesis of Windows. But in our modern computer world, it also seems normal thanks to cloud computing. I think most of us are used to this nowadays. On my Chromebook, I default to storing everything in Google Drive. On an EdgeBook, you would do the same using OneDrive.

A big attraction I have not mentioned yet about a Windows version of a Chromebook: privacy. I would lean towards using an EdgeBook in order to distance myself from the data-harvesting Google ecosystem. Microsoft might be similar in this regard, but I think it is much less so than Google.

Check out what Microsoft says about Edge and your privacy.

The Edge browser defaults to Bing search, which uses a web indexing engine by Microsoft, not Google. My current search service now is privacy-centric DuckDuckGo, which uses the Bing search engine, among others, for results. It’s quite good.

All in all, an EdgeBook with Windows10X has me excited. If nothing else, it will increase competition for Chromebooks, in turn making Google innovate them more. If I wasn’t planning on buying an iPad later this year, I’d likely get a new “EdgeBook.”

Watch the video below to see a demo of Windows 10X.

What do you think? Reply below with your comment. Contact or Email me at the buttons above. Thanks for reading!

Doubt Befits Google Fitbit

So, it happened. After much time, Google officially bought Fitbit; the deal is done. This tech news is tainted though. Why? I doubt Google will be a good steward of Fitbit. Look at what happened to both Motorola and Nest.

In the case of Nest, it was a separate company but only for a while. Once that was undone, all of a user’s data with Nest became Google’s data. So much for staying private.

Google is a data driven company. Does anyone really trust it won’t eventually begin integrating Fitbit users’ private personal health data or somehow using it for ad revenue? And how was this aquisition allowed given the current state of “Big Tech” anti-trust scrutiny? How/why did EU and US regulators pass this?

I’ve never owned a Fitbit. I have owned a Moto 360 WearOS smartwatch. And I now enjoy an Apple Watch SE. Wearable fitness devices are great. I hope Google and Fitbit will be a good fit and truly make Fitbit better, because it will up the ante for competition. Apple will need to improve its Watch all the more.

It will be interesting to see what new features and innovations Google and Fitbit make together; there’s good potential. But I’m afraid it will be more interesting to see if or when Google somehow violates their pledge to keep user health data private.

If Fitbit health data does eventually become less private, being shared/owned by Google, I could see many Fitbit users abandoning their fitness trackers. They would flock over to an Apple Watch because Apple is a trusted company when it comes to user privacy and security.

Appreciation is due Fitbit for pioneering wearable wellness tracking. I wish Fitbit the best.

What do you think? Reply below with your comment. Contact or Email me at the buttons above. Thanks for reading!

Moving With Google Fit

Lethargy feels like the mayonnaise that won’t squeeze out of the plastic bottle. To get unstuck, get movin’! So I’ve been ramping up my fitness. When the Summer sun isn’t trying to kill me in a Texas heatwave, I’ve been outside literally taking steps towards my exercise goals.

Walk This Way

Earlier this month, I wrote about Google buying FitBit, and I related that to my need for fitness. During this Covid-19 virus imbroglio, my YMCA closed. And after it reopened partially, my karate class was not resumed.

So what could I do without my martial arts practice to keep pushing my body? I decided that I didn’t need to repair or replace my bike or buy a fitness tracker to get movin’. I already have all I need.

A good pair of shoes.

Also, I happen to have a smartphone with built-in GPS and an Accelerometer to track my movements. With those two sensors, you kind of get the same results as a Pedometer: step counting.

So my anti-sedentary stance begins with the Google Fit app on my phone. With it, I also tried other apps: FitBit, MapMyWalk and MapMyRun.

All I must do is have my phone in my pocket when I’m on the move!

Also: hydrate. Then rehydrate.

Google Fit dashboard
The Google Fit dashboard

The FitBit app is loaded. It’s almost too much. And without a connected tracker, it’s weaksauce. The MapMyWalk app is nice, but not as simple or nice as the Google Fit app. The one thing I wanted with MapMy… was a map showing the path I walked.

Google Fit, updated this Spring, not only records my walking paths, it does it automatically! It detects when I’m walking a long distance. But I usually “start a workout” to be sure. I’m deliberate when I go for a walk anyways.

For now, I walk with mixed intermittent jogging, just to get my heart rate up. It’s been too hot to all-out jog. One thing I’ve tried is reading on my kindle while walking, which totally works. And I sometimes listen to a podcast with lightweight earbuds.

So I’m lovin’ the Google Fit app with its new Heart Points that are supported by the American Heart Association! Also, it’s accurate at counting my steps! In a step-count test of 100, the Fit app logged 104 steps. Not bad!

Overall, Google Fit is super simple. Step Count and Heart Points are the two main metrics. There are others, but you’ve got just those two rings to close each day. I set mine as a baseline, the minimum I should do as routine.

Now in my early 40’s, I’ve got to adjust to whatever fitness activity I can. These days, my lower back tells me things I don’t want to hear; I give it Advil to mute it.

So walking is easier than jogging, better on the knees for example. And you can do enough to help prevent heart disease. I already have a disease (celiac); I don’t need another one. I’ll warm up to jogging more once the weather cools down!

Let me take this back to the smartwatch/fitness tracker question.

My phone handily includes two movement recording sensors: GPS and Accelerometer. Together they act like a Pedometer. But there’s one more sensor I would like to have, something that monitors my heart rate!

Step counting, meet Pulse counting.

Since I refuse to strap a seat-belt like thing to my chest, I must opt for a geek friendly smartwatch or…a FitBit.

I won’t rehash that topic – see my other article – but I would like something on my wrist that doesn’t cost an arm and a leg.

Forward March

The best point of all is this: I’m now movin’! And I hope it becomes a habit that sticks throughout each season. It’s the easiest thing to do, just start walking. Pick myself up from the chair and pick up the pace, one foot in front of the other.

After one week, I already feel my metabolism boosted; hunger comes on faster and easier. I feel a little better overall too, well at least sometimes. But I’m encouraged.

Let me encourage you too! Regular exercise, even a little, helps boost your mood and it can help you sleep more soundly at night. 

Lace up your shoes and get movin’!

What do you think? Comment below, or write to me here! Thanks for reading!

What do you think? Reply below with your comment. Contact or Email me at the buttons above. Thanks for reading!